I have closely watched American presidencies since Richard Nixon in early 1970s, and none has been as hectic and eventful as Donald Trump presidency. Over the last four years, Mr Trump has surely upset global status quo through his impromptu and often unplanned policies and pronouncements, all coming in quick successions. Since USA is perceived as the leading global power, the world closely watches and analyses whatever USA does, because its actions have direct and indirect impacts on the rest of the world.
Global order as we have known it for many years has been shaken by Mr Trump into situations of uncertainty and sometimes “chaos” especially in areas of global protocols, geopolitics, trade, and political governance standards. Arrangements and institutions that have previously sustained global order and prosperity have been upset.
However, looking at it positively, any chaos can be an opportunity to create new order. The world, with the right leadership, can smartly re-engineer itself into a better and more relevant global order. However, inaction or recklessness in response to emergent upsets can lead to significant and irreparable global dangers.
The Paris Climate Accord was the first major victim of President Trump’s presidency which has mostly emphasized immediate economic gains for USA over dangers posed by climate change impacts. Without USA direct involvement, visibility and focus on climate change have definitely declined. However, what is not subdued is the momentum of “green” science, technology and capital which together have continued to deliver significant renewable energy gains across the world.
The US oil industry has been quite cautious in embracing populist Trump’s anti-green policies, cognizant that these could be a passing cloud. I believe any post-Trump government will reinstate official US support for the Paris Climate Accord
Global trade has definitely been thrown into disarray by Donald Trump, who has challenged globalisation principles espoused by WTO. Principles which had enabled China to singly command nearly all streams of global trade unchallenged. Mr Trump’s approach to global trade is likely to deliver more equitable trade arrangements that address unique challenges faced by developing countries like Kenya. In future, the world is likely to move towards negotiated bilateral FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) like the one USA is negotiating with Kenya.
It is in global geopolitics that Mr Trump has created a potentially dangerous global uncertainty. The hitherto unified Western coalition defined by NATO has been disoriented by US president who has pushed the EU into political, military and economic uncertainty. Yes, Mr Trump has treated Europe with obvious disdain and disrespect.
The only person who is contentedly smiling is Russian President Vladimir Putin (perhaps the most globally alert leader today) who clearly understands USA geopolitical missteps and is determined to capitalise on them. Mr Putin is quite aware that Mr Trump, for whatever reasons, is unlikely to openly turn his anger on Russia.
Russia has, in the absence of USA focus, crafted a unified political front with China, Iran, Turkey and Syria while maintaining warm working friendship with Germany, Israel and Saudi Arabia. All this is happening when the balancing EU political and military capacity is undermined by Mr Trump. However, Mr Trump’s intense focus on China has certainly upset Chinese plans to gradually ascend to global economic, political and eventually military dominance.
The other key area that has visibly suffered in the past four years is erosion of global value systems (peace, governance, human rights, poverty and disease eradication) which USA had for decades supported directly or indirectly through leadership by example. The apparently weak UN leadership has not helped to protect these global values against Mr Trump’s excesses.
Another very worrying development over the past four years is Mr Trump’s “weaponisation” of the dollar in the form of economic sanctions on dollar-based financial transactions and trade by countries, institutions and individuals who cross the paths of the US president. And this has prompted countries directly or indirectly impacted by US economic sanctions to scheme alternative global financial systems to counter US Dollar.
Whether Mr Trump serves one or two terms, he will leave in his wake a world that will definitely be in urgent need of repairs. And such repairs may end up as modernising blessings.
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